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Memories and Silences Haunted by Fascism

Italian Colonialism MCMXXX-MCMLX

Daniela Baratieri

Fascist and colonial legacies have been determinant in shaping how Italian colonialism has been narrated in Italy till the late 1960s. This book deals with the complex problem of public memory and discursive amnesia.
The detailed research that underpins this book makes it no longer possible to claim that after 1945 there was an absolute and traumatic silence concerning Italy’s colonial occupation of North and East Africa. However, the abiding public use of this history confirms the existence of an extremely selective and codified memory of that past.
The author shows that colonial discourse persisted in historiography, newspapers, newsreels and film. Popular culture appears intertwined with political and economic interests and the power inscribed in elite and scientific knowledge. While readdressing the often mistaken historical time line that ignores that actual Italian colonial ties did not end with the fall of Fascism, but in 1960 with Somalia becoming independent, this book suggests that a new post Fascist Italian identity was the crucial issue in reappraisals of a national colonial past.


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1. Cinema: A Question of Total Silence? 79


Chapter 1 Cinema: a Question of Total Silence? It was silence that firstly set on the African endeavour and then its nearly entire memory was removed, more so than for other aspects of life under Fascism. Too modest and actually insignificant the [cinemato- graphic] production of the postwar period and the direct or indirect memory of the African enterprise… neither writers nor men of cinema, as if on a common pact, have wanted to elaborate stories with the back- drop of the epic conquest of the Empire. Gian Piero Brunetta9 Similarly to the following chapter on the periodical press, this section will challenge the authoritative voice of scholars whose work has extensively dealt with the subject of this book. Following examinations of different cultural fields in the postwar period these authors arrived at extremely similar conclusions. Gian Piero Brunetta, Karen Pinkus and Nicola Labanca share a concern with the absence of a critical appraisal of an important part of national history and both implicitly show the existence of a demonisation, beginning in the mid-forties, of the entire Italian African enterprise as Fascist. They postulate that this demonisation was accompanied by a total lack of concern for the Italian colonial experience and the complete absence of cultural products that might revive it as a haunting and uncomfortable presence. The filmography collected at the end of the book challenges the basis of this claim. From 1945 to 1966 at least a couple of dozen new movies were made in Italy that dealt...

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